MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE N.C. --
With today’s economy as it is, in order to pay the thousands of dollars college can often cost, many of America’s youth have turned to the Marines as a way to serve their country and earn a college degree.
As a kid, Lance Cpl. Stephen P. Harper, team leader, Military Police Company, Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, dreamed of being a Marine as well as creating video games. Harper explained that he had a hard working upbringing before the Corps, where he was self-sufficient at eleven and held three jobs from the time he was 14 years old until joining the Corps at 18 years old.
After two years in the Corps, the 20-year-old Harper decided to start work on his other childhood dream of creating video games.
“I used to play this game called Doom,” said Harper. “For a while I thought that’s what Marine’s did (shoot and kill monsters), said Harper with a laugh. “Later, I learned that the Marines could teach me things like leadership and give me opportunities.”
The Thomasville, Ga. native, has looked into Full Sail University, and planned a curriculum to earn himself a bachelor’s degree in game programming during his off time in the Marines. Harper says that when his service ends he plans to use the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill for a masters degree in video game production and development.
“My main goals as a kid were to become a Marine and get into video game design and the Marine Corps has helped me get to that point,” said Harper.
The added work load doesn’t worry Harper’s senior leadership.
“Any time you add more work to what you’re already doing it’s going to be trying,” said Sgt. Corey G. Ross, MP Company platoon sergeant. “But he can handle any task I give him. There’s no doubt in my mind about that.”
Equally important, Ross has noted that Harper has taken the time to research things like tuition assistance and the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill.
“He is researching it all,” said Ross. “He’s not just going into it blindly and saying, ‘I want to go to school, and not doing anything about it.”
Harper's brother, a former Marine, enlightened him on tuition assistance, which allots active duty military $4,500 per fiscal year.
In the workplace, Ross said, he sometimes makes jokes on Harper for reading video game magazines, but thinks it’s a good thing that Harper has found and started education on something he enjoys.
“If you really think about it, about that being his passion, in the end he’s going to be happy with his life and career path. It’s a smart decision to go where he’s going,” said Ross. “He is an example for junior Marines to emulate. Taking advantage of online courses and tuition assistance, and starting a degree early while in the Marine Corps is a great opportunity they have and I wish to see more junior Marines take advantage of it.”
Harper believes he will soon feel very proud of his future accomplishments.
“I’ve never had things handed to me – I wish,” said Harper with a small chuckle. “The things I get, I feel as though I’ve earned them. I feel I have more right to have them because I worked for them.”